Thanatológiai Szemle

elektronikus folyóirat


XI. évfolyam



Dear Reader,

We are in deep mourning. Alaine Polcz, the great personality of the Hungarian thanatology, the founder of the Hungarian Hospice movement, the co-editor of our journal, died on September 20, 2007 at the age of 85. We dedicate the present edition to the loving memory of Alaine Polcz.

Alaine Polcz was born in Kolozsvár on October 7, 1922. She specialized in psychology at the Faculty of Arts at ELTE University in Budapest. The same year she graduated, she married the writer Miklós Mészöly. At the beginning of her career she focused on art therapy with adult mental patients, thereafter she became involved in play diagnosis at the Pediatric Neurology Clinic, developing diagnostic play scales. She also worked as a psychologist with the terminally ill and dying children and their families at the 2nd Pediatric Clinic at Semmelweis University, Budapest.

She wrote countless books and articles, many focusing on the death consciousness of children, bereavement, the process of dying, and psychology. Her most famous book entitled The School of Death (A halál iskolája) was published in 1989, and at that time it was a real breakthrough as death had been considered taboo. In 1991 she became a founding member of the Hungarian Hospice Foundation, and the president of the first Hungarian hospice organisation.

She has been acknowledged by the professional world and she received several distinctions for having developed new diagnostic methods in order to treat psychological disorders in children, for her work in the service of the Hungarian hospice movement, and for her humanity driven helping attitude that is reflected in her books as well. In 2001 she received the Commander's Cross Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic. Her charismatic personality attracted many followers, and the present leaders of the Hungarian hospice movement are proud to consider themselves to be her followers.

She, who dealt with death on daily basis, often told us that those who learn how to die, in fact learn how to live. Those who care for the dying, are made to realise how good it is to live. Alaine learnt from the dying and the mourners how to live. - János Pilling emphasizes her frequently expressed idea in his commemorative speech, that we included in full length in this edition of the Kharón. Furthermore, we publish two interviews with Alaine Polcz prepared by Magdolna Singer, one of them obtained three years ago, the other one couple of weeks before the death of the eminent thanatologist. These interviews reveal the thoughts and ideas of Alaine on life and death, desires and fears, love and jealousy, pain and suffering, that had always been permeated by her deep love of life even amid great sufferings.

Following these interviews that also touched upon spiritual depths, the study of Ágota Kovács psychologist proceeds. She deals with the relationship between spirituality and attitudes towards death in human soul, providing dignified continuity to Alaine’s thoughts. The author examines the effect of spiritual openness on our death related anxiety. Her study was conducted among Anonym Alcoholics and hospice volunteers, and her findings show that spiritual openness correlates with lower levels of anxiety, more successful coping strategies, and more accepting attitudes towards death. Another strength of this study is the exploration of differences between religiosity and spirituality, and the spirituality related scientific researches.

As we usually do, we provide room for articles of talented young thanatologists in this edition as well, thus we included two papers written by medical students. Eszter Mohilla studies the attitudes of Moslem believers to death and bereavement, and besides the issues of predestination and sahid (martyr); she explores the care for the dying from the viewpoints of health care personnel, the dying, and their relatives. The case study of Henrietta Kelemen processes the story of a mother in perinatal mourning due to the loss of her five unborn children and who gave birth to a handicapped child. Apart from presenting the fate of the mother, she analyzes the possibilities of processing grief and the alternatives of providing help. The book review also focuses on the issue of perinatal bereavement: we give a brief review of Magdolna Singer’s book entitled Weeping Children in Women’s Dreams.

Another complicated case is presented by Veronika Szitás, a physiotherapist living in Sweden. Our readers may be familiar with her theme on movement therapy facilities of processing grief that have been dealt with on the columns of the Kharón in previous editions. In her present paper she analyzes the case of a young girl who resisted mourning after her father had died of cancer, but the fear of illness and the halted bereavement resulted in somatic symptoms and increasing pain. What can a physiotherapist do in such case? Can the physiotherapist help at all?

Many professionals are preoccupied with this topic who are close to the dying and their relatives, and attempt to alleviate pain by using their own specific means.

The Data Depot and Sources columns encompass two themes that many are interested in and thrilled by. András Sándor Kicsi explores the expression of zombie, and gives a detailed account of various types of zombies in connection to the voodoo religion.

András László Magyar imparts exciting information on the ordeal of the bier based on the translation of the work written by Gregorius Horstius and published in 1606. The 17th century author studies the possibility of uprush of blood from the corpse indicating the presence of the murderer, and he also presents various opinions formed on this issue.

I wish our readers pleasant readings on behalf of our editorial board!

Katalin Hegedűs Dr.



In memoriam Polcz Alaine, 1922-2007 (János Pilling)



Going home



Life demands courage! Interview with Alaine Polcz in 2004


Embraced by God. In memoriam Polcz Alaine, 1922-2007



Relationship between spirituality and attitude to death in the human soul

Our attitude to death is influenced by our religious/spiritual views. My study focuses on spirituality, because spirituality, considered as behaviour intended to seek the goal and ultimate meaning of life and due to the nature of connection with the transcendental dimension of being, is a notion of a wider semantic range than religiosity.

The aim of the study is to explore the relationships between spiritual openness, attitude to death, anxiety, and coping strategies. The study was conducted among members of the Anonym Alcoholics (AA) and hospice volunteers. Although they belong to different organisations, AA being a non-profit self-help organisation and hospice being an institution providing health care services, the common feature is that they both fill a niche in the present health care system. My findings show that spiritual openness correlates with lower level of anxiety, more adaptive coping strategies, and more accepting attitudes towards death. Thus spirituality is a factor of psychological well-being, therefore it would be important to include the view of spirituality in our everyday life, respectively in the scope of the health care system.


An aspect of the image of death in our multicultural society. How do Moslem believers relate to the notion of death and dying?

Sooner or later in our lives we all have to face the transitory nature of life. In some societies this is easier, in some others it is more difficult. Why is it difficult for the 21st century European man to view death as a natural concomitant of life? And why can some distant cultures, such as Islam, accept the fact of death as a natural part of life. In this study I am searching for explanations and summarize the basic principles that define the way of thinking of Moslem believers, and I attempt to give a point of reference for doctors, nurses, and those working in the field of palliative care by emphasizing a couple of specific characteristics of religion.


Thoughts on perinatal grief with reference to a case study

The case study is based on an interview with a mother who experienced perinatal loss several times. Her personality, environment, attitude to her unborn children, and the circumstances of their death had a great impact on her grief process. The study presents the hard life of this woman who harboured suffering for a long time, and at the same time it raises the question of alternatives and possibilities of providing help and assistance.


Grief in the body, body in grief. Catharina’s choice

The paper of the physiotherapist living in Stockholm presents the case study of a young girl who had enigmatic somatic symptoms presumably due to suppressed grief. The author summarizes it in the following way: The girl told me that many a times her legs failed her when she wanted to stand up, and she started to feel this weakness and pain in other parts of her body. She explained to me in an overanxious manner, that each inch of her body aches. She did not seem to have an explanation for it. What she told me about her somatic complaints was completely chaotic. At about the third treatment I noticed that she was afraid of something. When I shared my observation she confessed that she was afraid of ending up like her father. He had cancer that was difficult to detect, and by the time it was diagnosed operation was out of the question, and he died. Catharina decided NOT TO MOURN! It is better for her father this way! However, her ’understanding’ and intellectualizing could not alleviate her fear of disease, her grief, and the void left behind by her father. She undergone several treatments, then she ’fled’.



On various zombies

The author studies the expression of zombie from linguistic point of view. He explores the etymology of the word, the semiotic nuances, and touches upon the role of the word played in voodoo religion.



On the ordeal of the bier (1606) (fragments)

GREGORIUS HORSTIUS: Scepsis physica medica de casu quodam admirando et singulari. Witebergae, Meisner, 1606. 36-47.

(Translated, introduced and footnoted by: László András Magyar)



Weeping children in women’s dreams. Birth and bereavement.